Was the non-catch to the Braves as Fifth Down was to Tech?

By now you’ve seen the photo: There’s second baseman Clint Barmes of the Colorado Rockies on the ground, and there’s the baseball, also on the ground. Meaning: The sprawling catch-and-double-play that ended Sunday’s Rockies-Cardinals game probably wasn’t a catch. The tying run should have scored and the Cards should have had the go-ahead run at third with one out, and had they lost that day the Rockies would lead the Braves by two games as opposed to three.

If you’re expecting me to author a screed against the umps for blowing it … well, you’ll be disappointed. It was a wild play, and even TV replays didn’t capture what photos, which came to light only a day later, seemed to catch. (Pun intended.) Umpires are human. They make mistakes. And besides, I still remember a key game in the Braves’ stretch drive of 1991 ending in the Astrodome on a called third strike by Alejandro Pena that hasn’t to this day clipped a sliver of home plate.

But because this is Colorado the Braves are tracking, it reminded me of another Colorado team — one called the Buffaloes and based in Boulder — that benefited from another missed call almost two decades ago at the expense of another Atlanta-based team, one nicknamed the Yellow Jackets.

On Oct. 6, 1990, Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson scored on the game’s final play to beat Missouri. Only the game’s final play was a Buffalo bonus. The officials had lost track of downs, and technically Colorado scored on fifth-and-goal. This became a bigger deal as the season unfolded and the Buffaloes ascended to No. 1 in the polls.

It became a massive deal locally because Georgia Tech finished its season 11-0-1 to Colorado’s 11-1-1 but finished No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. The Jackets were awarded the UPI national championship by one vote over the Buffaloes, but the Fifth Down rankles fans of the Institute still. (As does the clipping call that wiped out Rocket Ismail’s punt return that would have given Notre Dame the lead over Colorado in the Orange Bowl.)

Some suggested in the aftermath that Colorado should forfeit the Missouri victory, given that it won on a play that shouldn’t have been. In 1940 Cornell had scored on a similar extra down to beat Dartmouth. Being all gentlemanly — it was the Ivy League — Cornell offered to forfeit. The game is listed as a 3-0 Dartmouth victory.

The Buffaloes made no such gesture. The Rockies haven’t, either. And I wouldn’t hold my breath in anticipation of one.

84 comments Add your comment

John

September 30th, 2009
5:35 am

Mark, you are the ONLY local media person to point that out about Colorado in 1990. Most of the other media folks tend to sweep that under the rug, saying that Colorado should have been the undisputed MNC that year instead of Ga Tech.

Papa

September 30th, 2009
6:38 am

Funny how the mind works …
Until your column I had not connected the Rocky Mountain fortunes with the Piedmont misfortunes. Life ain’t fair, I grant you; and I am not a fan of instant replay in any sport at any level – play the game as a game with all the human thrills, spills and foibles.
Still … I will go to my grave knowing “we was robbed” of the 1990 National Title. Come again another day. Thanks for the good work (and even the sore reminder) Mark.

Who freakin' cares...

September 30th, 2009
6:42 am

It is baseball and GT you are talking about!!!!!!

Ozzy

September 30th, 2009
6:57 am

Being a Mizzou and GT fan, the fifth down still burns my butt.

And Bill McCartney (Mr. Promise Keeper) unwilling to forfeit a game he knows to this day that he should have – the definition of a hypocrite in my eyes.

Moral of the story – judge people by their actions, not what they say.

And evidently you care since your posting on a blog at 6:42 dork.

Tech Fan in Athens

September 30th, 2009
7:10 am

Of course, had GT benefited from Colorado’s 2nd loss of the season they would have been ranked higher and gone to a better post-season bowl. Instead they bowled over a weak Nebraska team in the Citrus Bowl. One cant rewrite history — though I would LOVE IT

SuperB

September 30th, 2009
7:22 am

One of the worst calls in Braves’ history occurred in Candlestick Park in a day game. Steve Avery hit a home run over the right-field fence– but was given a double. I believe Steve lost that game 2-1.
Hard to believe in a major league game!

MalibuGT

September 30th, 2009
7:23 am

…and i’m pretty sure the Broncos were behind Eugene Robinson’s er…sting

BugKiller

September 30th, 2009
7:27 am

Boo frickity hoo.

You know something, I believe that you make your own luck.

We wouldn’t be here talking about this ridiculous no catch today if someone had the wherewithal to STOP Bobby Cox from using Greg Norton as a pinch-hitter time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time again.

We wouldn’t be here bemoaning the Rockies’ dratted good luck if Cox hadn’t taken out a 24 year old pitcher throwing a shut-out in the 8th inning over worrying about his “pitch count.”

We wouldn’t be here cursing our stars if the idiot manager had done his job and benched his underperforming hitters (Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francouer), or at least in Frenchy’s case, moved him down to the bottom of the line-up much sooner, before they did so much damage to this team’s postseason hopes so early in the season.

So in the end… it all comes back to the stubbornness and tactical idiocy of one man: Robert J. Cox.

Or as I like to think of him: the Homer J. Simpson of Major League Baseball. Because all he had to do for years and years was push a few buttons, but he screwed even something so simple as that up when it mattered the most.

Habersham Dawg

September 30th, 2009
7:28 am

Being a dawg fan and alive during 1990, all I’ve got to say is, “you guys were robbed.” I have a cousin who played on that Tech team and he still despises Colorado.

curt moore

September 30th, 2009
7:42 am

MLB needs to begin using instant replay especially in games that are so critical. It’s used in football and has been accepted as part of the game. Why not make sure the call is correct. That missed call on Sunday will probably cost the Braves a shot at the playoffs.

Nativebird

September 30th, 2009
8:05 am

Take all Umpires off the field, period. Use Lazers and Camera’s 100% on every call.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
8:22 am

I’m impressed by the way BugKiller gets back to Bobby Cox in everything. Awesome, baby!

Ed-Covington

September 30th, 2009
8:31 am

Tech fan:

The Citrus Bowl was a much bigger deal then. This was the ACC champs against the #2 Big 12 team. Because of conference tie-ins, the other bowls were not open to Tech. Nebraska was ranked #6 & #7 in the polls and their only loss was to Colorado. Tech crushed them, while Colorado beat them by only 10 during the season. They were the only mutual opponent that year for Tech and Colorado.
Given the rout of a mutual opponent, that Colorado DID lose and TIE a game and add in the “Fifth Down” fiasco, one wonders how Colorado could be considered by the pollsters to be the #1 team and Tech not. Such was the disrespect for the ACC and the over-hype of the North Carolina tie. Tech MAY NOT have been the best team in CFB in 1990 (I personally thought they were, but I’m biased), but Colorado certainly wasn’t.

Steve

September 30th, 2009
8:34 am

There was also a phantom clipping call on ND in colo rad-o’s bowl game at the very end. Ismail scored and there was no clip. Oh and colorado. also had a tie and a loss that year compared to techs one tie. Oh and they won their bowl game from a missed extra point. If they miss that, it ends in a tie and they don;t get it with a loss and 2 ties. That was a joke to vote that team #1.

Stotts Era

September 30th, 2009
8:37 am

this is just dumb…there are a thousands reasons why we are not leading the wild card/NL east

personally, i blame leaving that hack frenchy on the roster for a year and a half too long

Who freakin' cares...

September 30th, 2009
8:37 am

I rest my case – even Tech homer “Ed Covington” admits that neither team deserved the MNC “Title”, and bugkiller makes the poinst re: baseball! So why are we even discussing this!

Ed-Covington

September 30th, 2009
8:38 am

curt moore:

As MB stated, instant replay probably wouldn’t have helped in this case. Only when the “freeze-frames” came out did the error become obvious. I think that everyone will agree that officiating in ALL sports has degenerated at the same rate as the quality of play. I can syill recall Eric Gregg’s strike zone. His interpretation of a “1/2 yard” was more closely associated with “front yard” or “back yard” than 1 1/2 feet.

Steve

September 30th, 2009
8:40 am

Should say if ND makes the extra point, it ends in a tie and no way they get the NC

Willie Coyote

September 30th, 2009
8:40 am

Early season blunders by the Braves is what made that “catch” such a big deal. There will always be games that you should win but still lose but the Braves have blown several that are costing them now. Hopefully they can win out and some of these chumps playing Colorado will step the heck up.

As far as the GT thing, 11-0-1 > 11-1-1 regardless of the fifth down. How so many people still say that Colorado should have been undisputed champ shows the dangers of inbreading in my opinion. With that defensive line Tech had, they could have taken Colorado head to head had they played each other. Tech also had no business tying NC that year which hurt them, though, strangely enough, not as much as Colorado’s tie and loss hurt them. One has to wonder about the poll voting in 1990.

Ed-Covington

September 30th, 2009
8:40 am

Who freakin’ cares… :

You don’t have to discuss this! Go back to bed!

[...] Is the Barmes non-catch a latter-day Fifth Down? | Mark Bradley Share and [...]

ATL man

September 30th, 2009
8:49 am

John, you’re an idiot. Everyone knows that Tech would’ve beaten Colorado that year had they played. Not only was Tech the only undefeated team that year, but Colorado was given two gifts (5th down and clipping call) and Tom Osbourne was the only coach who played both Tech and Colorado and he voted for Tech as #1 in the coaches.

GoBraves

September 30th, 2009
8:51 am

Too bad BugKiller’s right, Mark.

GT

September 30th, 2009
8:56 am

Dawgs don’t lilke this topic. It’s a painful reminder they haven’t won a NC in 30 years and tech’s is 10 years closer.

BnB

September 30th, 2009
8:59 am

Bad calls are part of the game though sometimes–as in the Colorado game…or the later nullified “fumble” int he Falcs game on Sunday–they are so incredibly bad you wonder how they happen. The idea is to not get yourself in a position where so much hinges on a single play. Personally, I hate replay as it kills the flow of the game. Live with the humanity.

Icky Thump

September 30th, 2009
9:08 am

Mark,

But you know the BugKiller is correct. I read Shultz’s blog from last night and Bobby was quoted as saying, “I always manage well with good starting pitching”. He had it (starting pitching), in the first half and went 35-40.

Tom Paine

September 30th, 2009
9:09 am

Carl

September 30th, 2009
9:14 am

bnb
the faclons call was reversed. the colorado catch wasn’t. baseball needs review on end of game and home run plays if they are questionable. and they need to speed up the pitching and the time between innings.

TechDan

September 30th, 2009
9:14 am

BnB, I agree that bad calls are part of the game, but giving a fifth down is not a bad call, it is near total lack of intelligence. Missouri won that game the moment that Colorado spiked the ball to stop the clock on FOURTH down. Fortunately, the Nebraska coach went head to head with both teams and decided Tech was better. That’s why we have the crystal football and Colorado doesn’t.

Ramblinwreck83

September 30th, 2009
9:16 am

There must of been alot of money riding on Colorado that year to win the MNC, so that would explain all of this. I wonder how much of this still goes on each year. I always thought that there were 4 downs in football and if you don’t score or get a first down then it’s a turnover. I guess I was wrong.

Rich

September 30th, 2009
9:19 am

As a Tech fan, I have always been bothered by the Colorado fifth-down play. However, I also realize it would have been easier to argue the undisputed claim had we not tied UNC that year.

As a Braves fan, it dismays me to no end about the “non-catch” in the Rockies-Cardinals game, but if the Braves had played to their full potential all season long, the non-catch would be a non-issue as well.

Bottom line is, both teams had letdowns.

the Sports Buffet

Steve

September 30th, 2009
9:19 am

Here’s the video. Show me where there’s a clip. There is none. It’s one of the worst calls ever because it gave them a share of the champ. You’d have to look back and think with the 5 downs, loss and a tie, missed extra point and this that there was something very shady going on that year. Did colorado pay off someone?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqC_Br3cDJg

Herschel Talker

September 30th, 2009
9:30 am

BUGKILLER at 7:27 IS ALL YOU NEED TO READ. ENOUGH WITH THE EXCUSES. THESE THINGS HAPPEN. IF THE BRAVES DIDN’T BLOW A 5-RUN LEAD WITH 2 INNINGS TO GO THE DAY BEFORE THE ALL-STAR BREAK AGAINST COLORADO, WE WOULDN’T BE TALKING ABOUT THIS. LET’S GET REAL PEOPLE.

Rich

September 30th, 2009
9:31 am

By the way, I’m still convinced the Micahel Jenkins “non-touchdown” against the Patriots went the way it did to make up for the fact Michael Turner got a TD call on a “non-touchdown” play earlier in the game where he never broke the plane. Both Jenkins and the defender were copping feels, in my opinion, so it should have been a “non-call”.

the Sports Buffet

GaCracker

September 30th, 2009
9:35 am

Too bad the human element can change the outcome of a game. Why not use the photo like they do in horse racing for a photo finish. The sport of kings learned long ago not to trust the naked eye. I hope to see the day where androids who can call them perfectly all the time replace umpires and refs.

Nativebird

September 30th, 2009
9:37 am

Look, no excuses for this Braves franchise and it’s current state. What did I say before yesterday’s transparent attempt at conjuring up interest for these losers? I’ll tell ya what I said. Do NOT fall prey to the LURE of this wanna be team desperately trying to SELL you guys they have a chance at post-seasons. They WILL dissapoint ONCE AGAIN.
They are the Lucy of the Major Leagues pulling back the football once again from the Charlie Brown’s of baseball fans.

Rob

September 30th, 2009
9:48 am

Yeah yeah yeah Jasper Sanks didn’t fumble on the 1 yard line but the refs blew that one too. Ref’s are known for blowing the big call. See last Saturday night at Sanford Stadium if you have any questions.

The begining of the end

September 30th, 2009
10:07 am

Thomasville Tech Fan

September 30th, 2009
10:12 am

Mark-
Interesting analogy……..That Colorado/Missouri game still makes my blood boil and I think about that 5th down each time I see Colorado play. Somebody at Univ of Colorado should have stepped up and forfeited (McCartney-first and foremost) but they didnt. I hold U of C to account for that to this day……slimey folks in charge out there.

rocky redwood

September 30th, 2009
10:13 am

Thanks for posting that punt return Steve. And yes I saw the clip. It was on #20. Maybe he actually hit him, maybe he did’nt. Sure did’nt need to.

Steve C

September 30th, 2009
10:16 am

Bud Killer, is there ANYTHING about the Atlanta sports scene you like, or can you only get your rocks off by trashing professionals that play the game every day? I’m not a huge Braves fan, but you shuld ask any of the other owners or general managers in MLB over the last 18 years if they would have liked Bobby Cox, a shoe-in hall of fame manager, in their dugout.

Steve C

September 30th, 2009
10:17 am

Er, that should be BUG Killer, but maybe it’s not too far off base…

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
10:19 am

I laughed, Steve. Freudian slip, huh?

Steve

September 30th, 2009
10:26 am

Rob
There was a bs pass int call against us, the year before in the end zone so it evens out. Saw that game on css a few weeks ago. that call was worse than a missed fumble in a pile.

Herschel Talker

September 30th, 2009
10:34 am

Bugkiller is dead on. People focusing on bad umpire calls are people who accept mediocrity. If Booby wasn’t such a clown, Colorado could get every umpire call, and it wouldn’t matter. The Braves are winning IN SPITE OF Booby, not BECAUSE OF Booby. Let’s get real, people.

Steve

September 30th, 2009
10:36 am

Actually i think it was on 4th down that kept the drive alive. if that bogus call isn’t made, the game is over and tech wins.

tom-vinings

September 30th, 2009
10:41 am

So which is better, the MB article or the Bud-killer (or probably Bud-Light) response on old man Cox. Cox did well for Atlanta, AND Cox should be done (and will be in a year). Boo-frickity-hoo!

Jackets #1

September 30th, 2009
10:41 am

One more reason why GT should have the undisputed 1990 NC. Colorado’s loss that year was to Illinois, who Clemson thrashed 30-0 in their bowl game…

Class of 92

September 30th, 2009
11:45 am

If I remember correctly, the starting QB for Colorado also knocked up the head coaches daughter and then died of cancer shortly thereafter. I was at the North Carolina game we tied that year. Natrone Means single handledly kept them in that game along with a fumbled punt return by us. Without that, we would have won the national title undisputed. Ah the good old days when you could actually count on your kicker to come through and win games for you at the end. I think Scott Sisson won like three or four games for us that year.

steverino

September 30th, 2009
11:48 am

Enter your comments here I have a genuine respect for Bill McCartney, but the sentimental, year long hangover from the death of Sal Aunese, along with the added poignance of McCartneys daughter getting pregnant and having Aunese’s kid, made the whole situation a big mangled, somewhat sordid soap opera…one that scored BIG with the pollsters. I’m convinced of this.